CUSTOMIZATION & 3D PRINTING IS THE FUTURE – Could it be the solution for the apparel industry?

By Frances Harder

The apparel industry is at a very crucial cross road. The massive amounts of unsold new clothing end up as waste, and old discarded clothing also end up in a landfill or burned is staggering. Approximately, only twenty five percent of all clothing in stores are sold at full retail price and the rest are either discounted or destroyed. Of course, what we wear is important for us all but most of us in the western world have more than enough clothing in our wardrobes. Women are the biggest consumers of fashion purchasing and often buy more for a reward than a real need for a new sweater. 

Globally the fashion industry employs 60 million people and generates trillions in revenue, but all are at risk. Production issues and land to grow cotton or farm is under dire stress due to the limit of planetary resources like water. Additionally, consumers are asking for more sustainable methods of production, however for the most part consumers don’t seem to be willing to pay more for garments made in any sustainable practice. Additionally, globally apparel workers are demanding safer conditions and higher wages, which of course they have every right to demand. But obviously higher wages equal higher costs for goods to the consumer.  All of the above issues mixed with the weakening of any dictated fashion trends are also a perplexing issue for apparel manufactures. So, what is the solution?   

In my mind I see that the future of fashion will be the evolution of the new world of the technical advancements in 3D printing.  To explain 3D printing simply, because it is a complex process that transforms digital information into an electronic design file. Guided by a design file, a 3D printer lays down layer after layer of raw material to “print” out an object. It could be a shoe, or a handbag, or as this technology progresses and evolves clothing of all types. I am convinced that 3D printed garments will be the next evolution that will be widely available to all and change the world of fashion and bricks and mortar. Retailers are closing as more purchases go online but maybe this new process will open up more doors. A customer can go to a store and choose a design from files or samples. Then have your body scanned to achieve the perfect fit and you can also even see a 3D image of yourself wearing your new outfit. Then the next day your dress will be shipped. Once you have finished with your old 3D printed garments then you can return them to the store to be melted down and reuse! NO WASTE!! ?  

Stella McCartney, the clothing designer and daughter of Paul is a leader and groundbreaker in the use of 3D printing in the world of fashion. She has showcased her 3D designs on the runway and you can find her clothes and shoes to purchase from her website, or another good place is “Farfetch”. You can even print your very own Paul McCartney. I look forward to seeing more innovation in fashions from Stella!  Big shoe brands are also 3D printing their new footwear models.

3D is also being used in many other industries including the medical field & the building trade. 3D is also breaking new ground and is being used to print bones, organs and other body parts. The building trade is 3D printing walls and other construction parts! Just amazing!! Very exciting! Watch this space.

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